14 March 2009
Bali Regional Ministerial Conference - Agenda Item 1
Opening Statement by Co-Chairs
Our host the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Indonesia, Excellencies, distinguished delegates and observers, ladies and gentlemen.
Let me first express my thanks to Dr Wirajuda both as co-chair and our host of the Third Bali Regional Ministerial Conference.
As co-chair of the Ministerial Conference, I also very much welcome your participation.
I acknowledge the continuing and supportive role of Dr Wirajuda, who has been part of the Bali Process since its inception.
It has been almost six years since ministers of the Bali Process gathered together in Bali. As with many others around the table, this is my first Bali Process Ministerial Conference.
The number of participants around the table underlines the continued regional interest in addressing the challenges of people smuggling and human trafficking.
The Bali Process was born in 2002 in response to circumstances of the time, and it remains today a relevant and important forum for regional dialogue and cooperation.
Vulnerable people continue to fall victim to traffickers and smugglers and international criminal networks continue their attempts to unlawfully circumvent national border management processes.
While the faces around this table have changed, and the economic and security circumstances driving people to leave their homelands have shifted since 2002, the need for a collaborative regional response remains constant.
From its inception, the Bali Process has been very much a mechanism that has had a practical focus.
It has provided a forum for countries to develop useful contacts in the region.
It has encouraged enhanced information sharing at the operational level, a necessity for any cross-border response to people smuggling and human trafficking.
The raft of practically-oriented workshops conducted under the auspices of the Bali Process has been successful in building a network of immigration and law enforcement practitioners.
This has been a positive development. As has the contribution to assisting countries in our region to criminalise people smuggling and human trafficking through developing model legislation.
The spirit of cooperation that followed the two previous ministerial conferences in 2002 and 2003 helped to mitigate the number and intensity of people smuggled and trafficked for several years.
Over the six years since ministers previously met, the Bali Process has remained active.
The Steering Group, comprising Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Thailand, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organisation for Migration has met regularly.
Given the regional challenges we now face, it is both timely and necessary to meet again at ministerial level.
This will allow members to review the progress of the Bali Process, to consider current challenges, and to provide guidance on future directions.
There has been a significant shift since 2003 in the circumstances driving people smuggling and trafficking within our region.
This includes the security situation in countries like Afghanistan and Sri Lanka and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.
There also remain protracted refugee situations in our region which provide a significant push to irregular migration.
The current global financial and economic crisis may well also encourage more people to seek economic opportunities outside of their own borders.
One question which we can ask ourselves during this conference is how as a region, as a group of interested and affected states, can we collectively address these challenges.
One proposal worthy of our closer attention is the retasking of the Ad Hoc Group mechanism to consider practical responses to regional challenges.
The Ad Hoc Group mechanism has been part of the Bali Process architecture from its early days and its retasking could represent the next step in the development of this regional forum.
Australia is committed to working closely with countries in the region to address people smuggling and human trafficking.
We welcome the opportunity to come together here in Bali to listen, to learn and to enhance our bilateral and regional efforts to combat people smuggling and human trafficking.
I look forward to working closely with you at this Conference and in the future.
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